Forum seeks to enhance supply of professional services to EAC

Policymakers and professionals will Tuesday meet at a consultative forum in Kigali to review the state of matters in regard to regulation of professional services committed by Rwanda under the EAC Common Market Protocol.

Policymakers and professionals will Tuesday meet at a consultative forum in Kigali to review the state of matters in regard to regulation of professional services committed by Rwanda under the EAC Common Market Protocol.

The meeting will look into challenges encountered in the process, as well as assess the rate of cross-border practice by Rwandan professionals.

According to the Ministry of East African Community Affairs (MINEAC), the forum will also assess the effect of non-recognition of academic and professional qualifications granted by EAC partner states, which deters cross-border practice.

Denis Karera, vice president of East African Business Council, told The New Times that the forum is timely as Rwandan professionals need to self-evaluate and see how to best push further into the open EAC market.

“We need to evaluate ourselves as professionals and know where we are in the regional market. Are we fitting in it, compared to other regional professionals? We shall then be able to consider where we need to upgrade,” Karera said.

Professional services committed by Rwanda under the protocol comprise medical, legal, accounting, auditing, book keeping and taxation, education, veterinary services; in addition to construction, architectural, quantity surveyors, urban planners, and engineers’ services.

Karera added: “We have been crawling so the forum is a test for us. It’s not too late.”

The Private Sector Federation (PSF) director of advocacy, trade and labour relations, Antoine Manzi Rutayisire, said there are many challenges encountered, especially in Tanzania.

Everything revolves around the principle of mutual recognition of professionals in EAC partner states, he said.

“I am optimistic the meeting’s resolutions will be acted upon,” Rutayisire said.

The first ever such national consultative forum will also examine successes and challenges faced in the implementation of existing mutual recognition agreements (MRAs) between professionals in EAC; and review the status of negotiation on harmonisation and mutual recognition of academic and professional qualifications in the East African Community.

Increasingly common since the formation of the World Trade Organisation in 1995, MRAs are international agreements by which two or more countries agree to recognise one another’s conformity assessments.

Outcomes of the forum

Expected outcomes include the identification of policy actions to facilitate full regulation of professional services committed by Rwanda under the Common Market Protocol; and identification of other restrictions hampering free movement of professional services from Rwanda to other partner states.

MINEAC says regional integration continues to play a significant role in Rwanda’s development through opening up new markets, reduced cost in hiring professionals, and an increased skills base.

From 2010 to 2014, about 400 regional companies opened shop in the country, employing about 2,500 Rwandans.

The Services Sector Review Report on Rwanda, issued by UNCTAD (2013), says the sector is now the largest and most dynamic in the Rwandan economy.

In 2014, the GDP share of the services sector in Rwanda was 47 per cent.

Under the Common Market Protocol, partner states undertook to mutually recognise the academic and professional qualifications granted, experience obtained, requirements met, licences or certificates granted across EAC.

Partner states are supposed to harmonise their curricula, examinations, standards, certification and accreditation of educational and training institutions.

But, as per the forum’s concept note by the ministry, non-recognition of academic and professional qualifications granted by partner states continues to deter cross-border practice for professionals that constitute the critical mass of the labour force that drive the integration agenda.

The ministry says the rationale for the forthcoming national consultative forum is to unlock existing challenges that impede the development of professional services in Rwanda.

The forum will also examine difficulties faced by professionals from other EAC partners that need to practice in Rwanda.

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